Two clergy sat over a chessboard in the coffee shop. They drank Armenian coffee and studied the chess pieces. One motioned toward me so I walked over to ask what else I could get them. Rabbi Marc Lewis asked for a ma’moul cookie and Rev. Farley O’Stoutville asked for another Armenian coffee.
“Be right back. I notice you guys haven’t made any moves on the board. What’s the deal?”
“We’re talking,” Farley said.
“No, we’re not talking,” said Marc. “Farley is treating me like a priest in the confessional booth. I’m just listening.”
“That’s a funny image, Rebbe–a Protestant pastor speaks of his sins to a rabbi! I’ll get your coffee and ma’moul.”
“No. Sit down and listen,” said Farley. “You should hear what I say.”
“You sure about this?” asked the rabbi and simultaneously I said that I needed to take care of other customers and couldn’t sit down with them.
“Stay a minute. It’s not like you’re busy. I’m saying anything scandalous,” said the Rev. “It’s just that I’m tired of being put on a pastoral pedestal. Church people tell me their problems. They ask me to pray for their family and friends. They tell me about this or that person who has a disease. Then they seem to walk away while I want to call out, ‘Hey, you didn’t ask about my family or friends. They have needs and you could pray for them.’”
“Rev, I’m not a member of your flock. No more than I’m part of Rabbi Marc’s flock. I’m sure people pray for you.”
“That’s not what I mean. I’ve had two friends die in the last month and another friend has cancer. When I tell people about it, they seem to nod, but they don’t seem to care. People are so wrapped up in their own matters that they don’t pay attention to national matters–much less me. They don’t even remember the next time we see each other. I’m getting bummed out, and Rabbi Marc is putting up with my venting.”
“Well, that doesn’t sound like confession. I’m not sure what I’d call it.”
“It’s peer talk,” said Rabbi Marc. “It’s the human side of ministry. We represent the divine, but we are still finite human beings. We are created from dust and to dust we return, but in between we try to use our gifts wisely and well. And sometimes our dustiness becomes too dry. Other times we hurt because others hurt. I tell my brother that every pastor needs a support team. I connect with him and I talk to other rabbis about my life in the congregation. He’s been hardheaded and unwilling to let go. So here we are now, venting across the chessboard, and it’s all good.”
“Rebbe, you sound like you’ve got a good handle on things. I’ll get your coffee and ma’moul before more customers come in. Peace to both of you.”